Occupationally related contact dermatitis in North American food service workers referred for patch testing, 1994 to 2010

Dermatitis. Jan-Feb 2013;24(1):22-8. doi: 10.1097/DER.0b013e31827b14e1.


Background: Contact dermatoses are common in food service workers (FSWs).

Objectives: This study aims to (1) determine the prevalence of occupationally related contact dermatitis among FSWs patch tested by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG) and (2) characterize responsible allergens and irritants as well as sources.

Methods: Cross-sectional analysis of patients patch tested by the NACDG, 1994 to 2010, was conducted.

Results: Of 35,872 patients patch tested, 1237 (3.4%) were FSWs. Occupationally related skin disease was significantly more common in FSWs when compared with employed non-FSWs. Food service workers were significantly more likely to have hand (P < 0.0001) and arm (P < 0.0006) involvement. The rates for irritant and allergic contact dermatitis in FSWs were 30.6% and 54.7%, respectively. Although the final diagnosis of irritant contact dermatitis was statistically higher in FSWs as compared with non-FSWs, allergic contact dermatitis was lower in FSWs as compared with non-FSWs. The most frequent currently relevant and occupationally related allergens were thiuram mix (32.5%) and carba mix (28.9%). Gloves were the most common source of responsible allergens. The NACDG standard tray missed at least 1 occupationally related allergen in 38 patients (4.3%).

Conclusions: Among FSWs patch tested by the NACDG between 1994 and 2010, the most common allergens were thiuram mix and carba mix. Gloves were the most common source of responsible allergens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Allergens / adverse effects*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / etiology*
  • Dermatitis, Occupational / etiology*
  • Female
  • Food Handling
  • Food Services
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North America
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Patch Tests / methods*


  • Allergens